This year, the LoungeBuddy team embarked on our third annual company-wide retreat. On the first retreat back in 2015, we went to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico and stayed at the newly built Hyatt Ziva all-inclusive resort. The following year, we flew the entire team to Montego Bay, Jamaica to experience reggae music, jerk chicken, and the beachfront Hyatt Ziva.
For our third trip abroad as a team, we enjoyed Puerto Vallarta’s friendly vibes and sunshine so much the first time around that we decided to come back to the coastal city once more for some fun in the sun.
It’s sort of like the Trevi Fountain: write your name in the sand and you’ll surely be back
This post is Part 1 of our full length feature. Click here to navigate to Part 2.
Departure From San Francisco
To get the show on the road, we made our way to San Francisco International Airport, one of the world’s fastest growing airports for international travelers. After checking in and making our way through security with the help of programs like TSA Pre-Check and CLEAR, we went upstairs to visit our friends at the Cathay Pacific First and Business Class Lounge. As you may remember, we partnered with this specific lounge location during the previous Year of the Goat to provide lounge guests with a more personalized, enhanced experience through activation of iBeacon technology.
One of the lounge’s highlights is the Noodle Bar. The Noodle Bar features authentic Chinese noodle dishes like dan dan noodles and wonton noodle soup, and you can’t really go wrong with any of the choices. Another highlight is Cathay Pacific’s signature Solus Chairs, which provide guests with a semi-enclosed space that’s perfect for rest, relaxation, and getting productive work done. Despite these tremendous benefits, the excellent customer service is undeniably the best part of the lounge experience.
It’s Qantas’ boxing kangaroo plane from the Rio Olympics - Spirit of the Australian Dream Team
For our flight to Puerto Vallarta, we departed on LoungeBuddy partner Alaska Airlines, J.D. Power’s top ranked airline for the past decade in Customer Satisfaction Among Traditional Carriers in North America. After a comfortable three and a half hour flight where we enjoyed this industry-leading brand of customer service, the plane landed relatively smoothly at our destination: sunny, warm Puerto Vallarta.
After quickly making our way through the immigration process, we walked down the hallway to the luggage claim area, strolling past advertisements featuring Vallarta Adventures (we took one of their tours on this trip), the local tourism board, and a number of local resorts.
Those who have flown into Puerto Vallarta from abroad will be familiar with this corridor
Past customs, the airport’s arrival area metamorphosizes into a lively, animated free-for-all atmosphere. Arriving passengers are greeted with enticing offers of free margarita samples and a stunning cornucopia of transportation options for getting into town. It’s certainly an interesting contrast to the placid, unruffled atmosphere awaiting arriving passengers in San Francisco. ¡Bienvenidos a México!
Getting To The Resort
After making it through this phalanx of activity to get back to the great outdoors, we split up into three different groups for our taxi ride to the Hyatt Ziva resort, where we would stay for the next week. Driving into town on the busy main thoroughfare, we passed numerous condominium towers, luxurious resorts, and large shopping complexes catering to the throngs of tourists and expatriates who come to Puerto Vallarta to enjoy the vibrant, relaxing, and easygoing atmosphere.
Marina Vallarta’s famous humpback whale, with Neptune looking on in the background
The four arches on the Malecon always draws a great crowd
Making our way into the center of town, restaurants, stores, and bars appeared in abundance. It was a refreshing sight to see, and yet, it was just another beautiful, ordinary warm afternoon in Puerto Vallarta. Past the town center, this bustling hive of activity gave away to condo towers and resorts, signaling that we were approaching ever closer to our destination.
A lineup of wooden oars welcomes guests from near and far to the resort
Upon arriving at the Hyatt Ziva, the resort was exactly as we remembered it. It was in pristine condition, with the familiar sight of the row of wooden oars just ahead in the main lobby’s center. One difference when we arrived was that it was no ordinary day, but Super Bowl Sunday. To celebrate this momentous occasion, the resort put up a giant projector screen, along with an open air buffet selection to satisfy all of their guests’ game day cravings.
The big celebration was already rolling along quite nicely when we arrived
After retrieving our card keys, we made our way up to our rooms to drop off some luggage and freshen up.
Ocean view double room with the lights turned down; direct views of the Pacific Ocean available on the opposite side
This flat screen television was left untouched because we had so much fun on the trip
After quickly settling in, we headed up to the Presidential Suite for some pre-dinner snacks and beverages. This two-floor penthouse suite, which our CEO had booked for the team, features a private swimming pool, a furnished terrace, dramatic ocean views, and even a separate living room and dining area. This suite is huge, and with over 1,500 square feet of space, clearly trumped all other offerings at the resort. This penthouse suite, which made a great experience at the resort even greater, is truly fit for a president, and we would have exclusive access for the full week.
Early morning on the Presidential Suite terrace by the private pool - great place to do your rise and shine routine
The terrace is the place to be to relax and absorb some Vitamin D
Another view of the circular private pool, with perfectly manicured bushes in the backdrop
Unobstructed view of the resort’s south side from the Presidential Suite terrace
All Inclusive Attractions
There was no set schedule for our trip, but our team established a fairly consistent routine during the week - gym in the early morning, followed by breakfast, work, lunch, chilling by the pool, relaxing in the hot tub, swimming on the shore, gym, naps, dinner, late night chilling on the beach, along with lots of drinks, recreation, and witty, intelligent conversations throughout.
This detailed map tells you everywhere you want to go at the resort
The gym, or fitness center, is located on the second floor of the resort next to the VitaMar spa facility. It’s open 24 hours a day, making it perfectly convenient for both early morning and late night workouts. Along the windows facing the outdoor terrace, there is a row of cardio equipment, including numerous treadmills and elliptical machines just waiting to cater to the resort’s fitness fanatics. In the middle and on the side facing the hallway, you’ll find everything else: bright round medicine balls, leg extension machine, chest press machine, lat pulldown machine, shoulder press machine, squat station, kettlebells, free weights, and a whole lot more.
Terrace outside the fitness center: exercise out in the sunlight or lie down on one of the comfortable chairs
Some of the machines and equipment that you’ll find in the fitness center
These treadmills are waiting to help someone burn their calories
If you’d like to focus on getting productive work done on your vacation, it’s hard to go wrong with the Presidential Suite. The terrace is a great place to work, at least during the early parts of the morning when direct sunlight is not as much of an issue. Within the indoor section of the suite, there is a large comfortable couch, along with the dining table and a smaller outdoor area on the opposite end with its very own table. The coffee shop, the lobby area, and the outdoor seating areas of the Sunset Bar are some other great places to work.
Colorful zigzag-emblazoned pillows put the finishing touch on productivity central inside the Sunset Bar
Seating area within the main lobby looking out towards the Pacific Ocean
View of the level one and the resort from the Presidential Suite’s level two
The pools are the resort’s main attractions, which certainly should not come as a surprise. The headliners are a group of infinity pools located in the heart of the resort, looking out directly towards the Pacific Ocean’s sparkling blue waters. One pool is located next to the always popular swim-up pool bar, while another is located right next to this pool at a slightly lower elevation. This lower level pool is bisected by the central hot tub and the entryway into said hot tub.
This wooden walkway takes you directly across the infinity pool into the infinity hot tub
The long, level platform is perfect for making your grand entrance
Two levels of infinity pools and a swim up pool bar await guests at the resort’s center
Guests can feel free to come out in the early morning with towels to reserve the prime seats
The beautiful, secluded oceanfront beach is another “must-visit” attraction. It’s a great place for early morning jogs. The water is the place to be if you’re looking for a refreshing swim, except when the waves are particularly strong. But when that’s the case, you’ll still have the pristine pools to enjoy.
View of the white, sandy beach marked with tropical straw umbrellas from ten stories high
The beachfront is where resort guests go to play, all day, every day
One excellent addition to the resort that wasn’t around two years ago is the Tequila Bar. In this fully air-conditioned Mexican cantina environment, guests can enjoy shots of tequila while playing billiards or watching sports on one of the numerous televisions. The Sunset Bar and the Pool Bar are also great places to get a drink, though perhaps the best place to do so is the Club Lounge, located on the first level of the Club Tower.
Display of alcoholic beverages outside the entrance to the Tequila Bar
The hydration station is the place to go for thirst quenching beverages when you’re relaxing in the tropical sun
Grab yourself a poolside passion at this poolside bar before hopping into the water
One of the main all-inclusive highlights is the resort’s unlimited selection of free food. Every morning, we had breakfast at VivaZ, the centrally located all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant. The wide selection includes scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, omelets, fried potatoes, chilaquiles, fresh fruits (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, pineapple), cold cuts, pastries, yogurt, fruit juice, and cartons of delicious strawberry milk. While the latter are meant for children, people of all ages can surely appreciate them. For lunch at VivaZ, you’ll find more typical lunch options. The seafood was particularly great, with options like mussels, hand rolled sushi, and a seafood medley with ingredients like shrimps and scallops.
Carbo-load and enjoy yourself before your next marathon in VivaZ
During the late morning and afternoon, you’ll often find food carts posted outside VivaZ in the surrounding area. One of our perennial favorites is the mango cart, where you can get a mango on a stick, seasoned with lime, salt, and chili powder.
For dinner, we tried out all the restaurants with the exception of the dinner buffet at VivaZ. On our first night, we had dinner at MelanZane, which specializes in Italian fare, with a focus on seafood and meat, along with all kinds of pasta: lasagna, linguini, gnocchi, you name it.
The early bird gets the worm, or in this case, their choice of virtually any seat in the house
The decor adds an extra touch of Italian flair to the comforting atmosphere
Bed of tuna with sauteed carrots and peppers resting on top
Pasta with mussels, calamari, and shrimps in red sauce
Fried salmon fillet on a layer of mashed potatoes and sauteed vegetables
The following night, we ate at Casa Grande, the official Mexican restaurant of the resort. Short ribs, tacos al pastor, ceviche cocktail, tortilla chips, salsa, and guacamole make up some of the premier features on the menu. The staff was particularly generous, providing us with a bottomless supply of chips and guac. They also brought us plenty of drinks, including countless shots of tequila and mezcal. This restaurant, reminiscent of an ancient hacienda, features a pavillion with a solitary dining table for one lucky group in the center. Look up, and you’ll see stars in the sky, painted on the canvas of the dark blue ceiling.
If only these sombreros were part of the all inclusive package...
The LoungeBuddy team gets together every Friday to enjoy a delicious meal
Our witty jokes will surely leave you in hysterics
Dine under the lights on center stage
Delicious tacos with fresh meats and tortillas sitting on a plate, waiting to be devoured or enjoyed in an exquisite manner
Seafood ceviche cocktail with shrimp, octopus, scallops, and slices of fresh avocado
Jamaica ice cream with small pieces of fruit, authentic flavors from old Kingston town
PureZa, the restaurant located on the far northern end of the resort, specializes in pan-Asian Cuisine. Options complete the circuit of the entire western Pacific rim: Thai chicken curry, udon noodle soup, a nigiri and maki sushi set, Pad Thai, satay skewers, and Korean barbecued short ribs.
Enjoy a romantic dinner on the beach in tropical paradise
The dinner table is always the perfect setting for a convivial gathering
Maki and nigiri sushi set (1 platter feeds 2 persons)
Chicken and tempura udon noodle soup with freshly chopped spring onions on top
Green tea ice cream, a mouthwatering combination of sweetness, delicacy, and great taste
BlaZe, located on the opposite southern end of the resort, provides patrons with the best cuts of meat and seafood in the region. Pork chops, New York steak, rib eye steak, arrachera skirt steak, Argentinian flank steak, and freshly caught fish are some of the highlights on the menu.
Blaze always seems to be packed. The table on the far right is reserved
Pork ribs, flank steak, fried potatoes, and carrots
Last but not least, there was a huge wedding celebration going on during our stay, and all resort guests were invited to partake in the banquet portion of the celebration. The outdoor buffet selection for this banquet was quite extensive, with a make-your-own-taco station being one of the highlights. The center stage at the resort featured live entertainment, including traditional dances and Mariachi performances.
All are welcome to attend this bountiful feast under the stars
Traditional dancers showcasing their moves on the dance floor on center stage
An excellent, diverse selection of food items await at this outdoor buffet